5 Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio means “old bridge” and since this one was completed in 1345, well, the name is accurate. What makes this bridge a top attraction for us — and for just about every other visitor to Florence — are the market stalls and shops along the span, a holdover from the Middle Ages. From afar the Ponte Vecchio appears to be covered with buildings; as you cross, you don’t appear to be on a bridge at all, but on a busy street.
4 Accademia di Belle Arti
There are very few times you should pay for a museum admission ticket just to see one piece of art. This is one of those times. The Accademia houses Michelangelo’s David. You have to see David. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re not into art, or if you’ve seen a copy of the sculpture somewhere. Go see David. The sculpture is so lifelike that you expect him to move. When you think about the fact that the realistic musculature was coaxed out of a slab of marble, you know you’re staring at the work of a genius. The Accademia also has some Middle Ages/early Renaissance art, as well as a few of Michelangelo’s Slaves, but you’ll spend your time with the star of the show.
3 Chiesa di Santa Croce
Just as Il Duomo, Santa Croce seems more colorful and impressive from the outside. However, the lineup of artists who contributed to the church is star-studded, and includes such luminaries as Donatello, Giotto and Cimabue. Santa Croce has also been a popular burial spot for notable Florentines: it is the final resting place of Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, opera composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini and Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, among others.
To visit the storied halls of the Uffizi is, quite simply, to overdose on art. The focus is on Renaissance artists, and you’ll get large helpings of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Cimabue and others. Non-Italian artists represented include Francisco Goya, Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer.
1 II Duomo (Florence Cathedral; Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore)
Il Duomo isn’t really this cathedral’s proper name, but it’s the one that people will recognize. If you’ve ever seen a photo of Florence you’ve probably seen a brick-red dome rising proudly over a sea of stone buildings; yes, this is it. The dome, created by Filippo Brunelleschi, is a staggering accomplishment in engineering and physics, and is still the largest brick dome in the world. The rest of the exterior explodes with color. The interior? Not so much, although the mosaic floors are spectacular. You can climb up through the interior of the dome (it’s 463 steps) for remarkable views of Florence. If you’re not tired after that, you can always hike up to the top of the Bell Tower — that’s a whole different staircase, naturally — for more panoramic views.